Tarzan 101 | How to Speak Ape

Celebrating Tarzan’s 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Though none of these posts do justice to the amount of information in Griffin’s book, this one and tomorrow’s are especially unequal to the experience of reading Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration for yourself.

Last week we covered Griffin’s section on the Tarzan fan clubs and mentioned Burroughs’ Tarzan Clans of America and his Official Guide for it. Part of that guide included a complete glossary of terms Burroughs developed for the ape language spoken by Tarzan and his tribe; Griffin reproduces the whole thing (I estimate around 250 words) in his book, in both Ape-English and English-Ape.

Before perusing the dictionary though and learning that the Ape word for “friend” is “yo” and “popo” means “eat,” Griffin’s readers get a brief overview of the language, its use in the Tarzan novels, a note from Tarzan at the Earth’s Core about pronunciation (“It sounds to man like growling and barking and grunting, punctuated at times by shrill screams…”), and the canonicity of “umgawa.”


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